The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration will break ground on the plaza of the American Indians Veterans Memorial on Friday, September 25 at the Riverside National Cemetery.
It will be the first major monument honoring U.S. indigenous veterans located at a VA national cemetery. The Memorial will feature a statue named “The Gift,” created by Berkeley sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg, and unveiled during a ceremony at the cemetery May 27, 2019.
Vito Imbasciani MD, Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke at the 2019 event, stating, “The gift of service to this nation should always be appreciated whether in times of war or peace. And no ethnic group has served at a higher rate than the American Indians and Alaska Natives we honor here today.”
Officials expect VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to appear at the September 25 groundbreaking, though COVID-19 restrictions prohibit the public from attending.
Randy C. Reeves, VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs also plans to attend the event on Native American Day in California. He recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Riverside National Cemetery Committee for the donation that will fund the memorial.
“This memorial and plaza will grant recognition to our Native American patriots, a group who have served this country at a higher rate than any other,” said Reeves in a release. “The National Cemetery Administration is grateful for the generosity of Riverside National Cemetery’s support committee in proposing and funding this most-fitting tribute.”
More than 14,000 Native Americans served during World War I, even though they were not citizens of the nation created on the land they had called home for thousands of years. Many volunteered for dangerous scouting assignments, and many died doing so. Their patriotism compelled Congress to grant citizenship first to that group of veterans, and then to all Native Americans in 1924.
By the time World War II ended, 44,000 Native Americans had served and many, including the famous Navajo Code Talkers, performed vital roles in Europe, North Africa, and in the Pacific that contributed to the Allied victory. Native Americans have served and died in every war and conflict since.
For more information about the groundbreaking, visit www.facebook.com/NatCemRiverside.
Additionally, the CalVet Minority Veterans Affairs Division will host an online Native American Veterans Day event on October 14. Among the scheduled speakers are James Ramos, assembly member, 40th Assembly District, California State Assembly; Vito Imbasciani MD, secretary of CalVet; Tim Romero, member of the Native American Veterans Association; and Xochitl Rodriguez Murillo, deputy secretary of Minority Veterans Affairs who will serve as master of ceremony.
The event will include presentations from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Tribal Government Relations, Native American Female Warrior, and the California Office of Emergency Services Tribal Coordination.
For more information visit the Minority Veterans Affairs Division page.